Sunday, April 5, 2015

Jesus Comes Out, I Mean is Raised (Matthew 28:1-10)

Jesus comes out at his resurrection. He leaves behind the cold lifeless tomb/closet and emerges into the full morning light and embrace of God's love. 

     After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb.
     There was a violent earthquake, for an angel of the Lord came down from heaven and, going to the tomb, rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid of him that they shook and became like dead men.
     The angel said to the women, "Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples; 'He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.' Now I have told you."
     So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said. They came to him, clasped his feet and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, "Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.
Matthew 18:1-10 (HCSB)

Jesus comes out at his resurrection. He leaves behind the cold lifeless tomb/closet and emerges into the full morning light and embrace of God's love. 

A number of sexual and gender queer folk have lived with the consequences of the closet for too long. All kinds of terrible psychological, emotional, and spiritual things transpire in the tomb of heteronormativity. For those who self-identify as a sexual or gender minority fear, guilt, shame, and self-loathing can hold us back and keep us tightly sealed in the tomb of society's expectation. "Coming out, for most of us, is like an exorcism that releases us of the darkness we have lived in for years and caused us to believe awful things about ourselves. On the other side of the looking glass are freedom, light and life" (Anthony Venn-Brown, A Life of Unlearning - a journey to find the truth). 

Jesus emerging from the tomb gives us a glimpse of our own emergence. When Jesus is raised we refer to him as the Christ more so than in his life: a sign that the one who comes from the tomb is more fully himself. So it is, when queer folk emerge from the closet we become more fully who we have been all along. 

The story of Jesus can be read as a story of exploring self-identity and ultimately embracing the destiny wrapped in one's identity. For queer folks, this destiny includes the closet and coming out. Veen-Brown follows this thought, "Every single courageous act of coming out chips away at the curse of homophobia. Most importantly it's destroyed within yourself, and that act creates the potential for its destruction where it exists in friends, family and society." The double encounter by the women - first the angel, then Jesus - with the message to tell the disciples to go to Galilee underscores the tension between who we have been and who are becoming.

Resurrection also alerts us to the role of love in the coming out process. Technically speaking, Jesus did not "rise" from the tomb. In spite of the translations above, the Greek is always passive, Jesus "was raised" from the tomb. In the christian tradition the act of raising is connected to the love of God. In the story of Jesus, resurrection is the affirmation of the identity of Christ as the beloved of God, even when the world was saying Jesus was cursed of God. To claim and act on such love often leaves others fearful for they do not know what to do with the unabashed power of unfettered passion. 

Turning to Veen-Brown one more time: "The (same gender) love you are experiencing encourages you to face the reality that this is who you really are and also has the power to set you free. The richness, beauty and depths of love can only be fully experienced in a climate of complete openness, honesty and vulnerability. Love, the most powerful of human emotions, is calling you to freedom and wholeness."

I disagree with Veen-Brown in that love is more than a powerful human emotion. From a spiritual perspective, love is the very structure of creation, underlying the primal emergence of life - life from the tomb, life from the closet - to the promised freedom and wholeness of God's kin-dom.

In the resurrection, queer people take hope that the grave of heteronormativity is not the final destination wrapped up in our identity. The story of the resurrection helps us to claim our own journey set by the label of "faggot." We can say with certitude: On that day, when we came out of the closet with Christ, and fought the war of heteronormative expectations,  our "death" to these expectations gave way to our victory of experiencing healing and acceptance, and knowing we too are beloved.

Alleluia! We have been raised with Christ.